THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
June 9, 2016 posted by

Thunderbean Ramblings… Cinetopia in Michigan… and Len Lye’s “The Peanut Vendor”!

Before I commence with the usual (as of late anyway) ‘rambling’, if you are in or anywhere near Michigan this weekend, as a true animation affectionato, you have an obligation to attend the Cinetopia film festival’s Disney screenings. Even through I run a little video company, as you know, I’m a huge fan of running actual film print, and the same is true for the Redford Theater’s programmer John Monahan, who worked hard to make sure the showings were on film as much as possible. It can’t be stressed enough how much rarer it is now to see film actually projected- especially classic films out here in Michigan.

fantasia-1969-posterFriday Night at 8PM, the Redford Theatre is screening Fantasia, from a rare 35mm Technicolor print! This print of course is the version shown in the 60s & 70s, with Deems Taylor’s actual voice. Fantasia looks like a different film in an actual Technicolor print. More info click here.

On Saturday, the Redford theatre presents a program of classic Disney shorts, including rare Oswald cartoons, hosted by Leonard Maltin. I helped curate the program, along with David Gerstein and John Monahan. I’m thrilled that we’re showing mostly 35mm film prints- with thanks to Disney! More info click here.

On Saturday at 8pm, the Redford is showing Lady and the Tramp, from a stunning 1972 IB Technicolor/Cinemascope print. http://www.cinetopiafestival.org/show/lady-and-the-tramp/

On Sunday, The Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor will host Leonard Maltin and animator Andreas Deja for a showing of the Ty Wong Documentary, Tyrus. This showing is at 1pm. At 4pm, the Michigan will be showing Bambi as well.


It’s been a dubbing festival here at Thunderbean, along with working on menus for one friend’s project, finishing mastering still for another, some editing for another, animating for another, and cleaning up some Cubby Bear. Sigh. I’m a little worried the whole summer will be like this.

Some quick, random notes and thoughts that I’ll remain slightly cryptic on:

1. I predict that the 1920s Felix the Cat cartoons will, at some point, have a more serious evaluation, since they will be more accessible. Out of the 155 or so produced, only about 60 are more common- leaving the majority of the films produced in the series rarely seen. That’s all I say for now.

2. For the record, there were more than a few Flip the Frogs made in color. And they exist. Just saying.

3. Nitrate really isn’t all that scary – unless you’re smoking next to it or leaving a shed full of it outside in a shed in Michigan for 40 years with rusted cans. Bad choice.

4. Empty 35mm film reels are not worth $40 each. When a collector tells you that they are, it’s not even worth asking how much that print of ‘Honest Love and True’ in 35mm Nitrate will go for. If he really has it. If he had ‘Getting His Nanny’ in color or ‘Benny the Bear in a Cowboy I Would Be’ I would honestly buy those $40 reels without complaint.

Ramblings:

A collector who lent me some of the recent films I’ve borrowed commented that he’s less interested in releases of stuff that’s already available (just upgraded to Blu-ray) and more interested in the stuff that *hasn’t* been released… and his comment was that the films he wants to see probably won’t EVER be released. Maybe it’s a bit of a pipe dream to hope to get all the stuff I’d like to release out, but if I’m successful, at least we’ll see *some* stuff that hasn’t been around. At this moment, there are 16 projects that are in some form of with moving forward here-some with Public Domain materials, but most not. I wanted to get six titles done last year but of course didn’t get anywhere near that….We’re on track to finish five titles this year, so that’s an improvement!

In this particular line of work, I’m finding that the key to making any of the projects happen is cooperation combined with some helpful sleuthing. There’s a better chance of a company not knowing what they have or ways to put it together than actually having some idea. Still, it can be amazingly frustrating to see possible deals not happen for all sorts of reasons – and then it becomes easier to understand why others haven’t attempted to this.

LinusLionLPFront-600One deal just isn’t happening yet because the owner of the material will rarely return a call or email. When he does, it’s positive.. then… nothing. I wonder what will happen when it comes to actually opening the vault or looking at the original materials, if that ever happens! Another license deal is for a film that is owned by a publisher that in itself is a subsidiary of a larger company that owns broadcasting companies. They’ve said they’d be fine making a deal for the film, but can’t find the paperwork related to it! This one has been on a hanger for a year and a half now. If the paperwork can’t be found, I wonder if the negative or any other materials will ever be.

Another project (trying to track down Linus the Lionhearted rights) ended up going in a gigantic corporate circle, with one part of the former part of the other company not sure who had what rights, and moreover *if* rights could even be available. One piece of the company thought they had the 35mm material in their possession, but it turned out to be a list of the holdings of the lab they material had been in. Funny enough, the sheet said the material was ‘returned’… but to who we don’t know! This one seems to have reached a dead end at this point, sadly- although I did find out that the model sheet of Sugar Bear is specifically owned by Nestle somehow.

The summer is the best time for me to be in pursuit of all this odd stuff, if I can just get the other things cleared off the plate so I can get back to them. Cubby Bear is coming closer to being out the door, and I honestly can’t wait- because it means jumping onto the Iwerks/ Flip the Frog animated tribute project (more on this soon!)


Ok – enough rambling and onto a cartoon!

Since this is a rambling post, a strange cartoons entry in appropriate.

Here is Len Lye’s Peanut Vendor experimental animated short from 1933. Len Lye of course was famous for his experimental animated films, including the classic

A Colour Box (1935) (clips of this short are here):

..and a clip from his classic Free Radicals (1958):

Lye’s work was heavily influential to brilliant Canadian filmmaker Norman McLaren.
Here is McLaren’s Boogie Doodle from 1948:

Michael Sporn had a wonderful post on his Splog about Len Lye years back – and it’s amazing and wonderful that his posts are up and still available.

Len’s Peanut Vendor short was, in all likelihood, never meant to be seen by the general public. It’s just a test film, without real titles- and the surviving print abruptly ends. My guess is that Lye produced this test film to get stop motion work. His vision is unintentionally the stuff of nightmares, featuring a creepy Monkey made of pipe cleaners. The common version of this was transferred from a 16mm print rented from Select Films in the early 90s. I did a film chain on the print way back then, and haven’t found a better print yet, though someday would love to get the original 35mm held at the new Zealand film archives. Thanks to Ken and Janet Preibe for putting this up:

Have a good week everyone!

26 Comments

  • Oh how I wish I could go to those Disney screenings! They sound awesome.
    I wish you all the best in getting all your projects where you want them. I am looking forward to all of them.

    Love the work of Len Lye. I even like The Peanut Vendor. 😉 Thanks for posting them.

  • Ooh, an absolute *ORIGINAL* print of “FANTASIA”? I envy the Michigan audience for that one. I just wish there were some digital way of restoring the Deams Taylor dialogue; I mean, we can run holograms of deceased entertainers for live audiences and we can’t restore little bits of dialogue whose original source material is no longer except for prints like the one that will show out your way? I guess I, too, am psyched for so many cartoons that have not already been released, but at the same time, I’m also very much for getting those cherished cartoons out there for us animation fans to consume. Thanks for the postings today, and I hope many of those unreleased cartoons are not all silent. Oh, and I’d really like to reacquaint myself with the LINUS THE LION-HEARTED series and I wish you luck in getting the legal nonsense out of the way. As time goes on, the legalities do become nonsense, because all who would have directly benefitted are deceased and, now, the people who would benefit most by the release of the films in question are the animation fans! Please, folks, make that easy for those who want such things!

  • And of course, empty 400 foot 16mm reels and cans are worth $10-15 each; not to film buffs who actually use them, but to Gen-X’ers looking for “relics” to hang on the walls of their home video theatres.

    • I’m sure nowadays it’s already tainted with hipster blood!

  • I remember seeing Len Lye’s “Trade Tattoo” on that animation show that PBS ran in the ’70s (the one Jean Marsh hosted). I marveled at how the graphics were ahead of their time.
    Lye also designed a new logo for “The March of Time” in the late ’40s.

  • I remember hearing that Fantasia didn’t do well when it first came out, but during the Psychedelic Era of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when Fantasia was rereleased it because popular with a new generation seeing it. (Rumors has is saying that many of the “Stoners” went to see Fantasia and were Mesmerized by the animation. According to the book Reefer Movie Madness, The Ultimate Stoner Film Guide that both Fantasia and Alice in Wonderland (1951) we’re very popular with the Stoners hence they as they say “broke even” in the box office when they were rereleased.)

  • I remember hearing a story (possibly apocryphal) of a veteran Disney animator on the college-lecture circuit being asked “What kind of drugs were you on when making FANTASIA?” He reportedly replied, “Ex-Lax and Pepto-Bismol.”

    As for LINUS THE LIONHEARTED, I suspect part of the problem may be that since these cartoons were basically infomercials for Post Cereals, that the rights to the characters may be somehow tied up by whoever owns Post Cereals. As I understand it, Post was part of General Foods, which was taken over by Philip Morris in the 1980’s. PM then sold Post to Ralston-Purina, who later spun it off into a separate company called “Post Foods.” So it wouldn’t be surprising if the rights are buried somewhere under this corporate tangle, and nobody’s really sure who’s got them.

    • For Linus, the big issue is who has what, what rights were transferred to who, and then , who has the material.. and that’s before whether or not they’re willing to license. I wish it was made by Kellogg’s instead! There seems to be a transfer of ownership of the films but not the characters. One person said they would be unable to license anything that could now be considered racist, so it’s hard to say whether they would allow the show to be released, period. I haven’t researched the films very much, so don’t know the true copyright status on the series…..

    • That was Art Babbitt, quoted in “Of Mice and Magic.”

    • If you’re feeling suicidal, Steve, you could do what Ralph Bakshi did with Mighty Mouse. Proceed with your work and figure out the rights later. I’m sure all the corporate foot-dragging will suddenly speed up if they think someone else is making money from their property. Yes it’s dangerous but just a suggestion.

    • If you’re feeling suicidal, Steve, you could do what Ralph Bakshi did with Mighty Mouse. Proceed with your work and figure out the rights later. I’m sure all the corporate foot-dragging will suddenly speed up if they think someone else is making money from their property. Yes it’s dangerous but just a suggestion.

      Ethics aside, part of the problem with doing that is that, apparently, no one knows who has the films themselves. Even if Steve was inclined to do as you suggest, when doesn’t sound like something he’d do, how’s he supposed to proceed with nothing to transfer, except perhaps whatever battered 16mm prints of the show circulate among collectors?

    • I didn’t urge Steve to try it, just suggested it. However, sometimes just a hint that someone is proceeding with a project (which I’m sure Steve wouldn’t try) will get the copyright owners shuffling their paperwork faster just so they can send their Cease and Desist letters off to the suspected perpetrator. Sometimes all you need to put something squarely on people’s radar. That is providing that the film material actually exists and is in usable condition. As far as ethics and the animation industry are concerned, Max Fleischer vs. Paramount and Walt Disney vs. Charles Mintz are just a couple of ethical situations that still resonate to this day. Even the most ethical folks have been brought down by a bombardment of dollar signs.

    • That is providing that the film material actually exists and is in usable condition.

      That’s always the million dollar question. I have a friend, who works for a video reissue label, who’s told me that it never ceases to amaze him how much television material has been lost in recent decades. He says it’s particularly a problem with material that’s independently owned, where one-of-a-kind negatives, prints and tapes can get shuffled around and around and around. Owners forget what they did with things and heirs often don’t know (or care). Let’s hope that’s not the case with LINUS.

    • That’s always the million dollar question. I have a friend, who works for a video reissue label, who’s told me that it never ceases to amaze him how much television material has been lost in recent decades. He says it’s particularly a problem with material that’s independently owned, where one-of-a-kind negatives, prints and tapes can get shuffled around and around and around. Owners forget what they did with things and heirs often don’t know (or care). Let’s hope that’s not the case with LINUS.

      Either way, I suppose it’s pretty sad to see Linus practically become as lost and forgotten thanks to the show’s unavailability after the initial network airings. I suppose I could blame the FCC for having started the whole mess with the show’s associated ties to a cereal company.

  • Everything has an “owner” (re-Sugar Bear model sheet). Private property…bah…

  • That Felix tidbit is very interesting. For a character that was once at the top of the world, there’s an astonishing lack of Felix cartoons available.

  • More than a few color Flip the Frog cartoons exist? I can’t wait to see them!

  • A collector who lent me some of the recent films I’ve borrowed commented that he’s less interested in releases of stuff that’s already available (just upgraded to Blu-ray) and more interested in the stuff that *hasn’t* been released… and his comment was that the films he wants to see probably won’t EVER be released.

    Does that include the possibility of a (maybe) licensed Fleischer release?

  • Len Lye’s one of the greats of what I’d call “abstract animation”, right there with Oskar Fischenger (hope I’m spelling his last name correctly!). His “Peanut Vendor” is probably one of the most bizarre and creepy stop-motion animated films I’ve ever seen in my young life. It’s so bizarre, it’s downright awesome. And I wonder why there’s a hand on the “Experimental Animation 1933” card. Weird.

  • I’ll be at the Sunday showing of “Tyrus” and “Bambi,” I sadly can’t make it to the others.

    I love how you make us salivate with your cryptic messages. I will go on speculate how many “Flip the Frog” cartoons were actually in color… 🙂

  • I like to think the best thing Len Lye did was Tusalava…
    https://vimeo.com/20957889

  • My cryptic answers to your cryptic thoughts:

    1. Holy cow. If Thunderbean is doing what I think it’s doing? That is going to sell like HOTCAKES.

    2. Interesting.

    3. Okay… but I kinda get that. I hope that it comes out okay, whatever it is.

    4. No clue to what you’re referring, sorry Steve.

    And one more comment: I really, REALLY hope that Disney will at some point restore Deems Taylor’s narration to a current home media release of Fantasia, or AT THE VERY LEAST give us the option.

    BJ

  • I was one of those stoners watching Fantasia is the late 60s and early 70s. I do remember seeing a tired old scratchy print on its last legs at a revival house. Disney should reissue a handful of the really greats every few years just to generate interest, like they used to. Pinocchio is fantastic in a theater.

  • They’ve said they’d be fine making a deal for the film, but can’t find the paperwork related to it! This one has been on a hanger for a year and a half now. If the paperwork can’t be found, I wonder if the negative or any other materials will ever be.

    You better hope they didn’t already throw that stuff out, Steve! These things could easily happen if they don’t have the paperwork to back it.

    This one seems to have reached a dead end at this point, sadly- although I did find out that the model sheet of Sugar Bear is specifically owned by Nestle somehow.

    That’s a new one!

  • Any time somebody mentions Linus, I think about his balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. If I remember correctly, he lingered for years after the show went off the air and his cereal vanished from supermarkets.

    The cereal was Post Crispy Crit …
    THEONEANDONLYCEREALTHATCOMESINTHESHAPEOFANIMALS!

  • WOW, that “1935-1937 Len Lye – “Kaleidoscope” + “A Colour Box” + “Colour Flight” (highlights mix)” looks like something right out of Andy Warhol’s early 1960s. Len Lye was decades ahead of his time!

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